100 years since New Zealand joined WW1

Friday, August 29, 2014
Union Steam Ship Company steamship MOERAKI, oil painting attributed to Frank Barnes (1859-1941). Fraser Collection,  NZ Maritime Museum (8673). The passenger steamship was built for the company in 1902, and was employed in the trans-Tasman service.

Friday 29 August marks one hundred years since what is considered New Zealand’s first military action in World War I.

German Samoa was a strategic operational base in the Pacific for Germany, with a radio transmitter in Apia able to send Morse code signals to Berlin. Britain wanted the German presence in the area removed and the leaders of New Zealand were happy to oblige, particularly because of the aim to colonise other parts of the South Pacific.

The passenger liners MONOWAI and MOERAKI were requisitioned from the Union Steam Ship Company to transport the New Zealand expeditionary force to Samoa. They departed King's Wharf, Wellington on 15 August and landed at Apia on 29 August 1914. 

With little resistance from the Germans, the force took over German Samoa and administered the country until 1920. New Zealand then governed the islands from 1920, in a checkered history of repressive rules and unprovoked violence, until Samoa finally gained independence on 1 January 1962. 

Find out more about the occupation of Samoa.

MONOWAI, hand-coloured photograph by David Alexander DeMaus (1847-1925). NZ Maritime Museum (2002.23.2) The passenger and cargo liner was built in 1890 by the Union Steam Ship Company for the trans-Tasman service.